Sun Tzu in the Taiwan episode




The Manila Times


When the enemy attacks, retreat. When the enemy rests, harass him. When the enemy shows no sign of resistance, attack. When the enemy runs, pursue. — Sun Tzu, The Art of War ARE we into World War 3? The question became more pronounced in the recent live fire war exercises conducted by China all around the waters and air of Taiwan the morning after that Tuesday night landing by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the island on Aug. 2, 2022. Stories circulated that the US legislator would be embarking on the journey as a publicity stunt aimed at generating political support, particularly from Taiwanese immigrants concentrated in California. But that the trip had official US government imprimatur may be gleaned from the fact that she was using a plane of the US Air Force. As far as we know, nobody uses government facilities unless on official missions. To the Chinese government, the Pelosi visit was an expression of official US recognition of Taiwan as an independent entity quite separate from the People’s Republic of China. There should no longer be much debate on the issue. The One China policy ever jealously upheld by the mainland Chinese government under any circumstances is to be held inviolable. The United Nations recognizes that, so does the entire world. The US itself has consistently avowed adherence to the One China policy, except that in his recent pronouncements, US President Joe Biden categorically declared the US would intervene militarily in defense of Taiwan against China. Now, isn’t that saying that Taiwan, in fact, is separate from China? It was evidently for this reason that China must rightly be offended by Pelosi’s Taiwan visit. What, however, was not expected by many was the way China reacted instantly, unleashing awesome war capabilities in every form: missiles swishing across the Taiwan Strait and then blasting the waters around the island, while Chinese jet fighters moved in maneuvers that closeted the Taiwan airspace, prompting the Taiwanese chief executive to appeal to nations to avoid the area for their air travel, while sirens rent the Taiwan air as folks scamper to desert the streets and seek air raid shelters. US warships which had been in the vicinity for some unknown reason had to beat it quick or perish from the Chinese military fireworks, some of which were even reported to have hit the coastal waters of Japan. At the same time, China’s own warships suddenly came charging from all around the Taiwan Strait in a rare display of just how much improved the People’s Liberation Army naval power has become. If that were a real war engagement, then we have the US forces beating the retreat. The intensity of the live fire drills and the massive discharge of naval and air facilities did have the makings of war as witnessed in Ukraine so that people could only shudder at realizing that the world could already be into World War 3. Is it? Before the Taiwan episode, China appeared complacent, seemingly unperturbed even by the intensifying conflict in Ukraine between the US-NATO tandem and Russia. One could not recall any expression by China of an official stand on the crisis save for abstaining from voting on the UN resolution condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine. The Belt and Road Initiative of President Xi Jinping has been on an upsurge in bringing development to the world, and China knows only too well that the momentum for attaining its vision of a “world community of shared future” stood to suffer in the event of war. By not voting on the UN resolution, China was able to keep the hostilities in Ukraine at a level where the contending forces confine themselves to conventional, resolvable conflict — not the popularly perceived mutually destructive nuclear warfare. It was exquisite silence that China appeared to regard the Ukraine crisis with and definitely indicated its resolve not to meddle in the conflict. Personally, I had taken this Chinese attitude as maintaining calm and balance with which in the end would make China as the fulcrum of war and peace in the crisis: whichever side China takes will prevail. So, it becomes imperative for the US/NATO combine to ascertain exactly just how much China would be able to influence the course of events the moment it decides to finally intervene in the Ukraine crisis. Might we now ask if that wasn’t exactly what the US did in sending Pelosi on that visit to Taiwan for all of Xi’s warning against it: ascertain Chinese war capabilities? Certainly, the US could do such ascertainment through its vaunted superb intelligence operations, but the war in Ukraine is taking time and no sign whatsoever that Russia is relenting in its resolve to really overcome, so for the US and NATO, the better to make a head count on the balance of forces if the Ukraine crisis were to erupt into a world conflagration. Even this early, North Korea has publicly announced its readiness to send 100,000 troops to support Putin; in the case of the Taiwan crisis, China has announced its readiness to deploy 600,000 troops, which by implication must be similarly deemed deployable in Ukraine the minute China ultimately decides to take up the Russian side. So, are we into World War 3? As far as the US and NATO are concerned, yes. War is their only alternative for subduing the worldwide surge of China’s shared economic development. The US has only just been on the lookout for ways on how to carry out war with assurance of success. It does not see any visible chance of beating Russia on the European front; with its recent debacle in Taiwan, neither is victory immediately foreseen in the Asia Pacific. What the US actually did in Taiwan was do a Sun Tzu: probing China’s seeming restfulness. With China’s instantaneous reaction, the US could not but obey Sun Tzu, too. How pitiful had US White House spokesman John Kirby sounded when reacting to the blasting “by the People’s Republic of China of estimated 11 ballistic missiles toward Taiwan whose impact was to the northeast, the east and southeast of the island. We condemn these actions. These are irresponsible and it adds to the longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region. China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s trip as a pretext to increased provocative activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.” Yet, in his statement, Kirby actually admitted that Pelosi’s visit was a deliberate move to elicit the kind of war-like reaction which China did. He said, “We anticipated that China might take steps like this . . .” The US knew China would counter with a missile attack; it just wanted to make sure and got the needed response. At any rate, that Kirby remorse was exactly what Sun Tzu would advise the US to do: “When the enemy attacks, retreat.” It’s a good thing, China did not “pursue” when the US warships “ran.” By that, China has kept world peace.